Even with snow on the field, it’s time for Penn men’s lacrosse to kick into high gear.
The Quakers will welcome No. 3 Maryland for the opening game of the season when the Terrapins travel to Franklin Field this Saturday.
After weeks of scrimmages and training, Penn expects stiff competition from its Big Ten opponent. Maryland has won both of its games this season, thoroughly outplaying Bucknell and holding off a late Richmond comeback attempt.
“Our communication skills have just improved so much since the fall, and that’s really going to help us win some big games, like against Maryland and Duke,” senior midfielder Tyler Dunn said.
Maryland has had significant success in recent years, winning Big Ten titles in 2016 and 2017 and the NCAA Championship in 2017. Led by junior third-team All-American Jared Bernhardt and sophomore Logan Wisnauskas, who each have seven goals this season, the Terps are going to be tough to beat. Historically, they haven't dropped any of their 15 meetings with Penn and hold a 6-0 record at Franklin Field.
“Historically, we haven’t had a lot of success [against Maryland]. They are the one team that we play that has won the national championship that we haven’t beaten,” coach Mike Murphy said. "They are still a relatively deliberate team in terms of pace, so I think we have to push the pace without risking control and discipline. Maryland will not beat themselves.”
This does not seem to faze senior and second-team All-Ivy attacker Simon Mathias, who emphasized the team's lofty goals.
“I have very high expectations per usual for the season. We typically shape our goals in the form of winning championships,” Simon Mathias said.
The team is bringing back seven decorated starters from last year, including six who have started more than 10 games. Goalie Reed Junkin was a 2016 All-Ivy selection and has played over 2,553 minutes in his career, while Mathias has 84 career goals at Penn, which ranks ninth all time. Additionally, the offseason has given Penn a chance to become a more cohesive unit, which, according to Murphy, has and will continue to pay off tremendously.
“Our strength right now is our offense. We’re experienced there, we have a couple of good freshmen there. I also feel good about the defense," Murphy said. "We just have guys coming back from injury, so we have experience. We just don’t have experience together this year, so I think we’ll have to play through some of that and get these guys gelling as quickly as possible.”
“Maryland is an extremely tough opponent, credit where credit is due. But I like where we’re at right now mentally and physically, and I think we’re going to give them a really good fight, and we have a great chance of going really far this season,” Dunn said.
Playing against such a talented opponent is not an easy way to start the season, but the contest will certainly prepare Penn for the rest of the year.